So yesterday was Scooby Doo Day at the museum. For those of you out who missed it, ‘Scooby-Doo Day’ meant that for a few hours, everyone’s favorite crime-fighting pooch stopped by Derby Court to hang out, take pictures, greet wee-ones- Good fun.
Except the closer it got to Mr. Doo’s arrival, the less ‘fun’ my thoughts about the whole thing became. By the time the cur left, I’d worked myself into a full-on sneaky hate spiral.
Let me clarify- I am not against fun, and I am especially not against fun in a museum. If I’m not the first to come to the defense of the Wonder Room, it’s only because a dozen or so brilliant people from Education have thrown themselves in front of me. In my brief tenure as an Authorized Museum Lurker, I’ve had days made by seeing faces of all ages light up with excitement, fun, and most importantly, “aha!”
And that’s where I start to get down on Scooby. Because, while I want the museum to be a place where kids and adults can’t wait to go, I want them to be excited about the museum itself. Where’s the creativity behind waiting in line* for two hours, sitting on the lap of a registered trademark and leaving with a Polaroid and a pat on the head? I think a common assumption is that ‘fun’ must be easy, when in fact, I believe the opposite to be true. It’s why well-dressed adults peek their heads into the Wonder Room, mutter “Oh. Kid’s stuff,” eye-roll, and leave- And why I get so angry at them.
Post-S-D Day, however, I find myself at a bit of a loss. Yes, there was a line stretching back towards (and not to) the Picassos. Yes, the Wonder Room was hellishly full. But all those hyper kids and tired parents, did stick around. After Doo, the galleries were packed. Surprise Supplies, a free weekly program in which unusual materials are presented as viable art tools (which I love), had over 275 visitors. Viewed in terms of sheer numbers, Scooby Doo Day (which by the way, was set up by marketing), was a success.
So my question to you, internet, is- in trying to attract visitors to museums (or any other “cultural institution”) does anything go? Do the ends justify the means in this case? Or am justified in my earlier grumblings? Have you ever had a similar moral dilemma?